Dendritic cells (DC) based vaccinations have been widely used for the induction of anti-tumoral immunity in clinical studies. Antigen loading of DC with whole tumor cell preparations is an attractive method whenever tumor cell material is available. In order to determine parameters for the loading procedure, we performed dose finding and timing experiments. We found that apoptotic and necrotic melanoma cells up to a ratio of one-to-one, equivalent to 1mg/ml protein per 1 x 10(6) DC, can be added to monocyte derived DC without effecting DC recovery extensively. Using the isolated protein content of tumor cells (lysate) as a parameter, up to 5 mg/ml protein per 1 x 10(6) DC can be added. To achieve significant protein uptake at least 1 mg/ml of protein have to be added for more than 24 h as tested with FITC-labelled ovalbumin. Maturation inducing cytokines can be added simultaneously with the tumor cell preparations to immature DC without affecting the uptake. Furthermore, we tested the feasibility of cryopreservation of loaded and matured DC to facilitate the generation of ready to use aliquots. DC were cryopreserved in a mix of human serum albumin, DMSO and 5% glucose. After thawing, surface expression of molecules indicating the mature status (CD83, costimulatory and MHC molecules), was found to be unaltered. Furthermore, cryopreserved DC kept the capability to stimulate allogenic T-cell proliferation in mixed leukocyte reactions at full level. Loaded and matured DC pulsed with influenza matrix peptide (IMP) retained the capacity to induce the generation of IMP-specific cytotoxic T-lymphocytes after cryopreservation as measured by ELISPOT and tetramer staining. The expression of the chemokine receptor CXCR-4 and CCR-7 remained unaltered during cryopreservation and the migratory responsiveness towards MIP-3beta was unaltered as measured in a migration assay. Thus we conclude that the large scale loading and maturation of DC with whole tumor cell preparations can be performed in a single session. These data will facilitate the clinical application of DC loaded with whole tumor cell preparations.